UPDATE: Country Crossings Vendors Fighting Payment Problems

Bi-Mart says it decided to pull its sponsorship right after the festivals in the summer of 2018. This adds to the questions about the stability of the musical festivals.

Posted: Oct. 8, 2018 7:07 PM
Updated: Oct. 9, 2018 6:48 PM

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. -- Vendors that worked at Country Crossings this year say they were paid late, and some say they weren't paid at all.

Sue Ravera is the owner of Suzy Q's Sweet Things and Desert Flame Wood-Fired Pizza. She says she was paid, but after the contract deadline with the festival. She says that makes her one of the lucky ones.

"Unfortunately many vendors were issued checks and the checks bounced," Ravera said.

This comes as the Country Crossings Music Festivals's top sponsor bails. Bi-Mart's Vice President of Advertising, Don Leber, says the retailer decided they will not be a festival sponsor right after this summer's events. Instead, the company will focus on other projects and new stores. On September 27, Country Crossings Music Festival changed its Facebook profile picture to remove "Bi-Mart."

Leber says he's still involved in one aspect: connecting frustrated Country Crossings vendors with the company that runs the events. He's received "a handful" of calls from people who say they are owed money by the company in charge of the event. Leber is connecting them with WCMC, the company that owns the festivals, and he says he is working with the company to do anything he can to help expedite the vendors getting paid.

There is even a closed Facebook group called "Country Crossings/BiMart Country Music Festival Vendor Communication.“ It's description reads:

This is a group for the Vendors who attended 2018 Country Crossings and BiMart Country Music Festival. We are trying to get communication going with Vendors who attended and have not been paid, got paid really late or are having any other issues with the Boots&Beach company. Please feel free to add other vendors, owner/operators only please. And share useful information.

Marissa 'Mar' Lopez is the page's administrator. She says her business Cowgirl Cook'n was a vendor at the festival. Lopez tells NewsWatch 12 "people are owed thousands.” She says it's because the festival was "cashless", so it controlled the money flow. She says vendors are due 80% of their gross sales. Lopez found it interesting that the festival handled money in this way. She says it's more common for events to collect their portion of the sales from vendors at the end of an event. With Lopez and others paying for the cost of groceries, support staff, and other needs, the vendors are frustrated that its been 70+ days since the festival ended and they still don't have their cut of the profits. Now, some vendors are considering a class action lawsuit.

The loss of the title sponsor is the latest in a line of questions about the organization's stability. The Willamette Country Music Festival announced earlier in 2018 that they would be getting a new location after 10 years in Brownsville.

The festival is reportedly having trouble getting permits. The appliction for the festival was submitted in July. It has not been approved yet. Linn County Commissioner Rodger Nyquist says he has concerns about public health and safety and those concerns need to be addressed. "I have concerns about the potential of a catastrophic event and so for me with this event with as large as it's grown and as much alcohol as they serve this is purely a health safety and welfare issue," said Nyquist.

Toney Langden hopes to bring the Willamette Country Music Festival to his land off of Priceboro Road, East of Harrisburg. Langden says he'd let the festival happen on his land for free. He believes it's a boost to the economy. "It's contributed more than a million dollars to the booster clubs," Langden said. City Leaders in Harrisburg also support the festival coming to their town. But Linn County Sheriff Jim Yon says he also has concerns about the festival. He's not signing a letter of support, citing public safety issues. He says "this year there were more impaired people than I ever seen then the entire time have been out there. It really pushed my office to the limit of what we can handle."

Langden says festival organizers are willing to bring in law enforcement from outside Linn County to help manage the crowds and situation. He adds that they are "working very hard to make sure that the board of commissioners has everything that they need. Now the production company has been doing this for 11 years and they know exactly what they need but somebody up the food chain is making it difficult for them to do their job."

In Jackson County, Country Crossings Music Festival has 3-year contract with the Jackson County Fairgrounds, but they have until January to cancel the contract, according to Helen Funk with The Expo. She does not think that is likely. The festival still needs to secure a “mass gathering permit" from the county.

Many country music fans are also waiting. In Jackson County, there has only been one concert announced for 2019. Luke Combs is scheduled to perform July 25. September 17, the festival posted a video to its Facebook page to alert followers that an announcment of two headliners was coming on September 21. As of the evening of October 8, there still are no additional announcements. In the comments on the Facebook page, you can read the fans' frustrations. Country Crossings Music Festival posted "Unfortunately we had to delay the announcement, but are look forward to releasing the big news to our loyal Fest Fans as soon as we can! Thanks!"

A WCMC spokesperson confirmed the company is in the process of assessing the festivals and no decisions about 2019 have been made at this time.

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